During my walk home, I pass by many fast food and beverage spots: Tim Hortons/Cold Stone ice cream, Starbucks, Burger King, Second Cup. But today I found myself in McDonalds for an Iced Coffee Frappé. The day had arrived where I chose “Rotten Ronnie’s” over my longtime favourite sugar-sweet blended coffee drinks Starbucks’ Caramel Frappaccino and Second Cup’s Chillate.
It occurred to me a few days ago that McDonalds has really grown as a company in the last few years. It might be a silly statement to make considering they’ve been “the” definition of fast food for decades now but ever since society began to wise up to the danger of fast food and obesity rates, the tide has turned and food chains have had to adjust with changing attitudes.
McDonalds has taken things beyond the expected norms of a fast food burger place known for its Happy Meals and fries that don’t go mouldy. In Canada, they’ve willingly competed with Tim Hortons in the cheap coffee wars by offering weeklong giveaways of free cups of java – no purchase necessary. They succeeded by offering a coffee that many people agree tastes better than the Canadian landmark, cutting into Tim Hortons’ profits and forcing them into changing up their comfort zone. Next step: the trendy café. Spots like Starbucks and Second Cup have been places people have gone to for over a decade for that signature latte, while hanging out wanting to be seen as part of that exclusive in-crowd that people love to be (or love to hate on). Cafés like those, along with the dozens of local spots every city has to offer, have become popular hangouts, study spaces or just spaces away from home for very particular demographics. Meanwhile, McDonalds is the type of place you don’t want to be seen in. The pinnacle of unhealthy habits that, unless you own a cloak, you wait until the sun has gone down before sneaking in to order that ten-pack of chicken mcmuggets. However, since introducing coffee a few years ago, they’ve developed and expanded their McCafé menu, offer free wifi, have renovated many of their stores with a more colour-neutral, modern design that encourages longer stays in a place that offers food and beverage for whatever your fancy.
The result is a company on the mend after having fought off bad reputation for years now. They’ve created Your Questions, a website that claims to answer any question truthfully, including the myths about pink slime and potato-less fries. Their Ronald McDonald House charity has taken on its own brand image independent of its parent corporation that has done reputable work. McDonalds has also been heavily involved in other activity and health-related initiatives as well, despite the reputation of its food. This is a brand that has put recognizable effort into improving not only its image but it’s actual model to deliver quality service and products. While I personally don’t affiliate McDonalds with “quality food”, I do recognize that it isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. Some may question how transparent its attempt at being transparent really is but there comes a point when one has to wonder whether they’ve reached conspiracy theory mode.
I still personally haven’t reached the point of eating a McDonalds burger. It’s been nearly ten years since I’ve had one, back when they had their cheap daily specials depending on the day. And when it comes to fast food, I still prefer many other places, nut I will no longer be ashamed of having the occasional chicken mcnugget meal.